Transgrancanaria 2019 Race Preview

Transgrancanaria is upon us once again. Arguably, it is the first big European race to kick-off a new racing season. Due to it’s timing, it’s a popular race for many high-ranking elites, European and from over the pond, it allows them to race hard and recover in time for the next big targets that will come in May, June, July or beyond.

Starting in the north of the island, the race travels all the way south covering many kilometres with vertical in abundance. Starting at night, the race involves many hours of darkness before the arrival of dawn. It’s a tough race, ask anyone who has done it and they will tell you, ‘It is a brute!’

The 2019 line-up as in previous years is spectacular.

The 2018 champion, Pau Capell, returns looking for another victory. Pau had a relentless 2018 campaign and will for sure come to the race ready to give it all.

Cristofer Clemente placed 3rd in 2018 and is a master of pacing. Expect him to be out of the top-10 early on and then move up the ranks with the arrival of dawn.

Julien Chorier just raced in Hong Kong at the two stage 9 Dragons. He won the first day and placed 2nd on day-2, he lost time due to the heat and humidity and finished 2nd overall behind Kazufumi Ose. He will be in great shape for Transgrancanaria.

The UK’s Damian Hall has been on a roll these past year’s. He seems to really be honing his craft and 5th at the 2018 UTMB proves it. He recently set a FKT with Beth Pascall on the Cape Wrath trail – expect Damian to do really well!

Hayden Hawks won Lavaredo in 2018 and this race will be a step-up for him. His natural running ability and speed will be beaten down by this relentless course.

Min Qi won Hong Kong 100km and as anyone knows, Hong Kong trails are super tough – I see Min being a force to be reckoned with.

Vaidas Zlabys placed 2nd at Transgrancanaria in 2017 and although he has raced many races since, he hasn’t quite fulfilled the expectation of that 2017 performance… Will we see something special in 2019?

***Dmitry Mityaev from Russia has grown over the last 2-3 year’s with a string of excellent performances, most notably on the skyrunning circuit. He won High Trail Vanoise in 2018 and for sure, that is a great indicator that he has the potential for a podium performance here in Gran Canaria. ***pulled out with injury

Pablo Villa is a force to be reckoned with, he has raced over the shorter distances in previous editions. This year he moves up to the full distance.

What follows is a list of runners who have excelled on this course or others, placing in the top-10 or just outside. They will all be ones to watch and for sure, any of them could pull of a big surprise:

Anthony Gay

Yeray Duran

Timothy Olson

Johan Lantz – notable story! Four years ago he broke his leg at Transgrancanaria while in 3rd place. This is his comeback…!

Andris Ronimoiss

Sebastien Sanchez

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The women’s line-up is a compelling one and certainly will provide a stunning race.

***Azara Garcia won Transgrancanaria in 2017 and she is back. She is always focused and fights hard – she will be difficult to beat. ***pulled out with injury

Magdalena Laczak, the 2018 champion, also returns for battle. If she, Azara and Caroline are in good form, we could witness an epic race!

Just 18-months ago, had I seen *** Caroline Chaverot’s name on a start list, I would have said, she is the one to beat. She really was unstoppable. However, the recent year and more has not been kind with a string of health problems. It’s great to see her on the start list here and I hope we see the Caroline of 2017! ***pulled out with a broken leg

Denise Zimmerman is a fierce competitor. She has been on the podium at UTMB so her long game is not in question.

Marianne Hogan may well be a surprise package? Her 2017 UTMB performance is a great indicator that she will be able to handle Gran Canaria’s tough trails.

Miao Yao like Min Qi won Hong Kong 100 in 2018 and that elevates her to a hot favourite on this course.

Lisa Borzani, Ester Alves and Ildiko Wermescher heads-up the remaining competition amongst others.

Action starts on Friday evening, March 22nd and the first runners can be expected in Maspalomas Saturday afternoon, March 23rd.

Ultra Trail Mont Blanc #UTMB 2018 Preview

UTMB is upon us and the hype just keeps on building and building. The 2018 edition looks set to be another great race and the year when the chances of an American at the top of the podium, have probably never been higher!

The 170km loop that starts in France, passes through Italy, then Switzerland and once again returns to France with 10,000m of vert is considered the pinnacle of 100-mile mountain running.

 UTMB LIVE HERE

MEN

It is easy to look at UTMB and the presence of Kilian Jornet on the start line and say, ‘we know who has won!’ To be honest, I think Kilian is the odds-on favourite to win the 2018 edition, particularly with Francoise D’Haene missing the race. What Kilian has achieved in 2018 after a very serious injury has been quite remarkable. What is most impressive is the range of his skill, he can break an almost unbreakable FKT in the UK (Bob Graham Round), win a super-fast and competitive Sierre-Zinal and then win and set a course record at the most technical and pinnacle skyrunning event there is, Trofeo Kima, just 5-days before toeing the line at UTMB. Without doubt, Kilian is the one to beat, however, the one thing he has against him is the lack of specific 100-mile training. For anyone else, that would be a huge problem, for Kilian, no!

Many will say that Jim Walmsley is the prime contender to beat KJ but let’s give a nod and respect to Tim Tollefson who has placed 3rd twice and now knows the race like the back of his hand. He prepares specifically and respects the race and the distance. His form seems a little off based on results in 2018, but, I am sure Tim has only ever had his eye on one prize.

Luis Alberto Hernando is for me one of the greatest and most underrated mountain runners in the world. He is pure class. He is a multiple world champ, has placed 2nd at UTMB before and missed the race in 2017 because he knew he didn’t have the necessary form to win. He has been quiet this year which can only mean very specific training. He hasn’t run many 100’s and this has been his downfall in the past, he always races hard and from the front which can mean he blows up. This may be Luis’s year for the win, but everything will need to go right, and Kilian will need to be a little off. A Luis victory would be extremely popular! 

Jim Walmsley finally fulfilled his dreams and ability with nailing Western States earlier this year and obliterating the course record. He has earned his 100-mile apprenticeship. Last year at UTMB it was all going well, and Jim was running a smarter race, it went wrong but he rallied and then finished in the top-10 closing hard. He has a tough decision to make at this year’s race, does he go on gut feeling and run at ‘his’ pace early on and hope he can take it to the line (think Zach Miller) or does he hand with Kilian, mark him, stay with him and then make a move late in the race where he then maybe can use his natural run speed to win? It’s important to note, that running and winning UTMB will be at least 20% more time on his feet than the WSER victory. I think Jim will make the podium this year and yes, he could be at the top of it, quite easily!

 Xavier Thevenard has done it all at UTMB winning all the main distances over the past 4-years. He will no doubt be reeling from his DQ at Hardrock and that could work either way at UTMB. It may motivate a superb performance or put questions in his mind. Podium potential for sure but not a winner this year.

 Alex Nichols is for me the greatest US potential for a win in years. However, it may take this year for him to fully understand the race before he can come back and win next year or the year after. I said many times in the last 18-months that Alex has the greatest potential and he proved it recently with his Nolans 14 FKT. He is one to watch and a dark horse.

The above are my prime podium contenders but as always, it’s a stacked field with the following toeing the line:

  • Gediminas Grinius
  • Ryan Sandes
  • Mark Hammond
  • Michel Lanne
  • Stephan Hugenschmidt
  • Jordi Gamito
  • Sondre Amdahl
  • Benoit Cori
  • Scott Hawker
  • Timothy Olson
  • Damian Hall
  • Sylvain Court
  • Javi Dominguez

That is an A-list of contenders with Gediminas Grinius and Javi Dominguez as stand outs. It is UTMB, so anything can happen on the big loop. One person to watch is the UK’s Damian Hall. Over the past 3-years he has moved closer and closer to the top-10 and last year placed 11th. He is super motivated this year and although I don’t think he will make the top-5, the chances are high for him to fulfil his top-10 dream. 

WOMEN 

Mimmi Kotka for me is the 2018 UTMB champion. She has won CCC, TDS and has crushed mountain races such as Madeira Island Ultra Trail, Mont-Blanc 90km and the Maxi-Race in Annecy. She eats mountains and although this is her first 100, something just tells me she is ready for the big loop.

Caroline Chaverot of course should be the odds-on favourite but boy-oh-boy as she had a tough time of things after winning ‘everything’ and I mean ‘everything’ a year or so ago. Her form is a real question mark and she has openly discussed on social media that she has been very unwell. Caroline in form is of course podium potential, anything less and she would be disappointed.

Uxue Fraile has a 5th, 3rd and 2nd at UTMB and that alone sets her up as a prime podium contender. She always runs a savvy race, has loads of experience and for me, she may well match her 2015 2nd place. 

Kaori Niwa has been 4th at UTMB and recently took 4th at Hardrock 100, so, we know she has endurance. That is super important here at UTMB and although victory is unlikely with Mimmi and Caroline in the race, the 3rd slot on the podium is possible.

 Sephanie Violett was 15th last-year which seems a below par performance based on her experience and skill. But UTMB is not the US and Magdalena Boulet and Kaci Lickteig also placed out of the top-10. I have a feeling that these three women will change things around this year and impact on the top-10 with Stephanie my tip as the one who does the best of the trio.

Beth Pascall and Jo Meek are two Brits who I believe this year will turn heads. Beth gets the nod over Jo as she has much experience at the long game with success at races such as Lakeland 100, Dragons Back and the Spine. She dropped at UTMB last year after getting cold, this year I am putting my neck on the line and saying top-5! Jo has trained specifically and knows the UTMB mountains after placing 2nd at CCC. This is her first foray to 100-miles and this length of time on her feet. She has all the ability to do well, so, fingers crossed she makes the top-10.

Fernanda Maciel has buckets of experience at the long game, has excelled at UTMB time and time again and I have no reason not to think she will do the same again this year. A prime top-10 contender and for sure, 4th/ 5th is a distinct possibility; she has placed 4th twice before.

Juliette Blanchet was 4th last-year and has buckets of experience and results at long and tough races… She was 2nd at Raid de la Reunion after UTMB in 2017. She will be fighting for the podium and amongst the 2018 women’s field, she has a great chance.

 Cat Bradley has won Western States but, in all honesty, I have no idea how she will fare on this monster 170km loop. You don’t win Western by accident which is why she gets a nod here, but let’s look at Kaci and Magdalena last-year, they were both outside the top-10. 

Mariya Nikolova is not a name that many will have heard but she has been in the top-10 at UTMB previously and she has won in Turkey at Cappadocia. Her recent form is a little unknown but an improvement from 9th is to be expected. 

Strong Contenders:

Emilie Lecomte has been there and done it in long distances races but seems to be lacking the speed of her prime. Amy Sproston has been 8th before, she will be in the top-10 game but not a podium contender. The UK’s Sophie Grant is another real contender with Beth and Jo, she was 15th last-year. Teresa Nimes was just outside the top-10 placing 11th in 2017. Aliza Lapierre dnf’d last year but has loads of experience as does Ildiko Wermescher who has been 6th and 7th at UTMB previously… In all honesty, Ildiko should be in the list above. Francesca Canepa is a long-distance specialist. Katia Fori also one to watch after 5th at MIUT.

It is all to fight for. The big loop with all that distance, vertical gain and descending, variable weather and just the many, many hours on foot means nothing is guaranteed. So, expect some surprises!

Action stars Friday 31st August.

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Episode 157 – Sue Ding, Lucy Bartholomew and Kris Brown

Episode 157 of Talk Ultra is a full and packed show as Kurt Decker brings you a Western States special chatting with Kris Brown and Lucy Bartholomew. Ian brings you a full and in-depth chat with Sue Ding who was the first Malaysian woman ever, to complete the Marathon des Sables.
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NEWS
 
LIVIGNO SKYMARTHON read HERE
 
The day was all about Petter Engdahl, the young skier/ runner dominated the race from the front and although he had some close competition at times, he blitzed the course with an incredible performance finishing in 3:33:26 ahead of Pascal Egli 3:38:01 and David Sinclair from the USA, a surprise 3rd in 3:39:16.
The ladies’ race was a close run epic with Laura Orgue and Sheila Aviles trading blows throughout. It was touch and go who would win, eventually it was Laura 4:10:11 to 4:10:45. Elisa Desco, wife of RD Marco De Gasperi, made a great return to racing after her 2nd child to take 3rd. in 4:19:45.
 
MONTE ROSA SKYMARATHON preview HERE
 
So now, 2018, 25-years in the making, the sport’s founders present an exclusive new event, this time in teams of two, roped together to race in true skyrunning style across moraine, snow fields and glaciers for 35 kilometres with an astonishing 7,000m ascent and descent.
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00:19:16 Interview with SUE DING
 
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BROKEN ARROW 52km
 
Jimmy Elam won in 4:54 ahead of Nick Elson and Jeff Mogavero 5:05 and 5:10.
Megan Kimmel dominated the ladies’ race in 5:30 ahead of Rea Kolbl and Rory Bosio, 5:48 and 5:52.
 
MOUNT WASHINGTON RR
 
Cesare Maestri in 1:00:53 the first European to win the race. For the ladies’ Kim Dobson in 1:11:42
 
MOZART 100K
 
Florian Grasel pipped the UK’s Damian Hall, 10:29 to 10:29 and Alexander Rabensteiner 3rd 10:32.
Martina Trimmel, Sarah Morwood and Veronica Limberger went 1,2,3 in 11:57, 12:12 and 12:21.
 
LAVAREDO has a packed field:
 
Fulvio Dapit, Pau Capell, Hayden Hawks, Scott Hawker, Michel Lanne, Stephan Hugenschmidt, Diego Pazos, Tim Tollefson and more…
 
Fernanda Maciel, Nuria Picas, Beth Pascall, Keely Henninger, Clare Gallagher, Mira Rai. Kelly Wolf and more…
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01:40:00 Interview with KRIS BROWN
 
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02:04:48 Interview with LUCY BARTHOLOMEW
 
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UP and COMING RACES
 
Check out the world ultra calendar on https://marathons.ahotu.comyou can do a specific search for the ultra calendar HERE
 
Ultramarthon calendar HERE
 
Race calendar for JULY 2018 HERE
 
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02:27:26 CLOSE
 
02:29:36
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Please support Talk Ultra by becoming a Patron at www.patreon.com/talkultra and THANKS to all our Patrons who support us. Rand Haley and Simon Darmody get a mention on the show here for ‘Becoming 100k Runners’ with a high-tier Patronage.
 
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Website- talkultra.com
 
UP & COMING RACESgo to https://marathons.ahotu.com

Marathon des Sables 2018 Race Preview #MDS #MDS2018

It is here, the 33rd edition of the iconic Marathon des Sables – 250km, 6 stages over 7 days and over 1000 runners from over 50 countries battling the sand and the heat of the Sahara in a self-sufficient manner.

The MDS is the granddaddy of multi-day racing and with its long history it is still the race that all other multi-day races base themselves on. Patrick Bauer’s vision is as strong today as it was back in the 80’s.

Bauer is not just a race director, he is a passionate man who loves Morocco and the people. The MDS ‘is’ Bauer and without him it is like the band QUEEN touring without Freddie Mercury center stage.

The stats for the race are impressive. They always are.

In 2018, as per usual. The 40-49 age group is the most popular. Yes, it is the mid-life crisis group with 349 males and 72 females toeing the line. The 30-39 group is next with 225 males and 58 females. Surprisingly, the 50-59 group comes in 3rd with a split of 177 to 37 male and female respectively.

The youngest runner is 17yr old Moroccan Ali Zaghloul who will be supported along the route by his father, Mehdi. The youngest female is Sally Wellock from the UK aged 23yrs.

France takes top honors for the oldest male, Jean-Claude Raymond aged 80yrs will look to complete his 12th MDS and Philippa Lloyd from the UK is the oldest female aged 69yrs.

I have to say, I have a soft spot for my good friend Didier Benguigui, this will be his 14th MDS and he is blind. I have seen him over the years overcome great adversity to achieve his medal. He is a true inspiration, he will make you cry – a legend of the MDS!

For those who love stats, believe it or not, the 2018 MDS will be Christian Ginter’s 31st MDS – yes folks, 31st edition – incredible!

ELITE RUNNERS

Female:

Natalia Sedykh returns to the MDS after winning the race in 2016 with a blistering performance. For me, she is the head and shoulders favourite for the 2018 race. She is currently in excellent shape and at the end of 2017 she won the Oman Desert Marathon.

Andrea Huser is a UTWT specialist and one of the strongest runners in the world with a string of incredible performances, be that UTMB or Transgrancanaria. She hasn’t run in the desert before and multi-day racing is a fickle beast. I see her doing well but I don’t think she will have the pace of Natalia.

One lady who will have the pace to take on the Russian is Magdalena Boulet. Magda has won Western States and placed 5th at UTMB. However, like Andrea, she is a desert Virgin and that will be her achilles heel for victory.

Anna Marie Watson can run in the sand, she won Half MDS Fuerteventura and recently placed top-10 at UTMB. She is likely to be a real contender for the podium this year and has trained specifically for the challenge ahead.

Gemma Game was 4th at MDS in 2015 and would have been a likely challenger for Natalia but has decided to ease of the gas for the 2018 race and she plans to have as much fun as possible.

Jax Mariash is a multi-day specialist who will bring her Gobi, Atacama and Namibia experience to Morocco. The question will be, does she have the speed to match the experience?

Also keep an eye on Bouchra Eriksen, Amelia Griffith and Beth Kay.

Male:

Rachid El Morabity is the desert king and you’d be a fool to bet against him. He won Morocco and Peru in 2017 and knows the sand like the back of his hand. He is an amazing runner with a wealth of experience and one of the nicest guys you will ever meet.

Mohamed El Morabity is Rachid’s younger brother and if Rachid was not running, Mohamed would have the nod for victory. He was 2nd in 2017, and he also won the 100km Ultra Mirage in Tunisia.

Abdelkader El Mouaziz won the London Marathon in 1999 and 2001. He has a marathon PB of 2:06:43 – ouch! He is a MDS vet having placed 2nd twice and 7th.

Aziz El Akad is a consistent Moroccan who has finished in the top 5 at MDS on 7 occasions – that speaks volumes!

Gediminas Grinius was new to sand and multi-day at MDS Peru at the end of 2017. The race didn’t start well for him, but he eased into the race and finished strong. I am sure Peru was invaluable for him to fine tweak his prep for MDS Morocco. I expect to see his kit and food fine-tuned and it to be lighter. He is a formidable performer, strong as on ox and never gives in.

Alejandro Fraguela placed 3rd at Half MDS Fuerteventura and that will set him up well for a strong and consistent run in Morocco.

Arnaud Lejeune is maybe the great French hope. However, his lack of desert experience will be against him despite great results at UTMF and a top-10 at UTMB.

Vajin Armstrong from New Zealand is a strong runner and fierce competitor, he’s a sand/ Sahara virgin and has a huge learning curve ahead of him.

Majell Backausen from Australia is also a strong competitor and like Armstrong will have his first desert experience in Morocco.

*Remigio Huaman is on my start list but I am not sure if he will race? If he does, he is a podium and most definitely, top 5 contender.

THE 2018 RACE

Speculation is always rife about the route the race will take and certainly looks like from the very brief description below that the 2018 edition of the race will be similar to 2017. I therefore predict a finish in Merzouga dunes.

For perspective, the 250km distance can be covered at 3km ph with an approximate 83hrs finish time. By contrast, the fleet of foot can cover the distance at 14km ph with a finish time of 18hrs.

For the record, 2017 distances per stage were as follows:

  • Day 1 30.3km
  • Day 2 39km
  • Day 3 31.6km
  • Day 4/5 86.2km
  • Day 6 42.2km
  • Day 7 Charity stage

I think it’s fair to say that the 2018 edition will have similar distances and therefore the key days will be day 2 and of course the long day!

2018 ROUTE OVERVIEW

Stage 1 – The terrain will be flat with a great deal of sand, small dunes and a small climb to the finish.

Stage 2 – Is a longer stage, with a great deal of sand. It will include a climb through a gorge and then a steep descent.

Stage 3 – Starts with a climb followed by small climbs one of which is very steep with a technical passage. This stage includes the first ‘real’ dunes of the 33rd MDS.

Stage 4 – The dreaded long day! It’s going to be a tough day with a great deal of sand. It includes two passages through small gorges, a climb up a djebel, a rollercoaster through sand and a technical descent. It’s a day about managing oneself and saving something for the night.

Stage 5 – Is the classic marathon stage with dunes to kick off the day. It’s a day of no major difficulty and it includes sandy oued and small sparse dunes. However, be prepared for the long plateau towards the end.

Stage 6 – Obligatory charity stage and buses will wait for the finishers to return them to civilization.

KEY STATS

Needless to say, key elements of the MDS are the distance, heat, sand and self-sufficiency. The combination of all these elements makes the race a tough one! For safety, each runner is tracked and monitored with a SPOT tracker.

Each runner must carry all the food they require for the journey and the race specifies a minimum per day. This must be adhered to; however, a runner can carry as much food as they like. The downside is the weight. Therefore, the race is all about balancing calories to weight.

The runner must also carry a sleeping bag, sleeping mat (if they wish), any luxuries and they must decide if they carry a change of clothes – many don’t!

Mandatory kit is specified by the MDS organization and this must be carried. It includes:

  • SPOT tracker
  • Knife
  • Compass
  • Whistle
  • Lighter
  • Venom pump
  • Antiseptic
  • Sleeping bag
  • Survival blanket
  • Mirror
  • Salt tablets
  • Light sticks
  • Headlamp

In addition to the above, other items are specified and failure to carry them will incur a time penalty.

The only items provided by the race for each runner is water (rationed) and a bivouac (tent) that holds 8 people.

SCHEDULE REMINDER

April 6 – arrive Morocco

April 7 – Inspection day

April 8 – race start, stage 1

April 9 – stage 2

April 10 – stage 3

April 11 & 12 – stage 4

April 13 – stage 5

April 14 – charity stage

April 15 – free day

April 16 – journey home

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Transgrancanaria 2018 125km – Race Images and Summary

The 2018 Transgrancanaria HG started as planned at 2300 hours from a new start in Las Palmas. In the 24-hours before the race, it had been touch and go if the race would have a delayed start due to storms that were rolling in to the island. For example, the marathon was postponed from Friday to a Saturday start.

In the hours before the start, rain storms moved through the island bringing with it strong winds and torrential rain. However, in Las Palmas it was all calm… was it the calm before another storm?

Live music, thousands of people and on the stroke of 11pm, the runners departed along the beach for one of the toughest races in the world – 125km with over 7000m of vertical gain. As the name suggests, the route is ‘Transgrancanaria’ starting n the north-east and passing all the way down the spine of the island to conclude in the south at Maspalomas. Key moments come at Arucas, Teror, Fontanales, Presa de los Perez, Artenara, Tejeda, Garanon, Tunte, Ayagaures, Parque Sur and finally the finish line in Maspalomas.

The ladies’ race was dominated by Polish runner Magda Laczak who pushed from the front right from the start. She opened a gap early on and pulled away as the miles past to finally finish 40-minutes ahead of the ever present and indestructible Andrea Huser, their times 15:18:37 and 15:58:11. Third placed lady was Ekaterina Mityaeva who is new to the UTWT ranks but over the past years has gained a strong reputation in the Skyrunner Works Series. Her form was good to close strongly and pass Fernanda Maciel for the final podium place. Fernanda had run a strong race early on but faded in the last quarter to finally finish 6th being passed by Beth Pascall from the UK and Eva Sperger. The ladies race had notable drop outs with some key favourites haveng a tough night, in particular Caroline Chaverot, Francesca Canepa and Emilie Lecomte.

For the men, Pau Capell as defending champion was the man to beat and he looked relaxed with expectation on his shoulders. He ran smart, calm and cool as Frenchman Aurelien Collet dictated the pace from the front. At the iconic Roque Nublo the duo were less than a minute apart and Aurelien must have felt like a hunted animal. Pau eventually made his move and he opened a gap immediately which he extended to the line finishing in 12:42:08 ahead of Aurelien’s 12:56. A strong attack had been expected from the USA’s Tim Tollefson and certainly over the first third of the race his presence was felt, however, a recurring injury kicked in and he was forced to drop. Cristofer Clemente took over the reigns and running his longest ever race he surprised himself taking the final podium slot in 13:22. Daniel Jung placed 4th.

Results:

  1. Pau Capell – 12:42:08
  2. Aurelién Collet – 12:56:39
  3. Cristofer Clemente – 13:22:48
  1. Magda Laczak – 15:18:37
  2. Andrea Huser – 15:58:11
  3. Ekaterina Mityaeva – 16:12:48

Race website http://www.transgrancanaria.net

Full Results http://transgrancanaria.livetrail.net

Gallery 2

Gallery 3

Gallery 4

Gallery 5

 

Sandes of Time – Ryan Sandes at the 2017 #WSER Western States Endurance Run on IRUN4ULTRA

I recently caught up with South Africa’s Ryan Sandes after his impressive victory at the 2017 Western States. You can listen to a full and in-depth interview HERE on Talk Ultra podcast.

Ryan’s story is one that inspires and it just shows what is possible.

“An impulsive decision one Sunday afternoon completely changed my life back in 2008. Could I run 250km, self-supported through a Desert? Without another thought, I maxed out my credit card and entered a race I knew almost nothing about. The lead up to the Gobi Desert Race consumed me but most importantly it enabled me to dream.”

You can read the full article on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

TOM EVANS – Marathon des Sables #MDS 2017 Part One

Captain Tom Evans, placed third at the 2017 Marathon Des Sables in April, it was a complete surprise. Prior to the race, it’s fair to say, Tom had well and truly kept himself under the radar, a skill no doubt honed whilst in the army. British runners have a long history with the MDS and finally, we have one on the male podium!

I caught up with Tom post MDS to find out a little more about his remarkable story.

Ian: Who’s Tom Evans and tell me how this all came about?

Tom: It’s a very surreal experience. I went out with a few small ambitions. My main goal was to go out unknown and see what I could do. There was no pressure on my running so I could just focus on myself, focus on the race. There were no expectations which I think it’s safe to say I managed to achieve. Absolutely no one had any idea who I was on day one.

Ian: [laughs] Well, you achieved that completely. I remember, on day one, I was scooting around the dunes in a jeep, trying to find the runners because you were ahead of schedule. I saw this shadow in the distance. I told my driver to stop. I’m running through the dunes. Then, you come past me. I look and I think, “Who is this? I don’t know who this is.” Then behind was Rachid and Mohamed, the duo were working together, a little like they do in cycling taking turns to set the pace.

They were holding you at 100, maybe 200-meters which they did to the end of stage one but we’ll come on to the actual race and how it panned out later. I called you Captain, you’re obviously in the army. You were out with a whole bunch of soldiers and Walking with the Wounded. You had Duncan Slater out there with you. Just from that perspective, with your performance, Walking with the Wounded, Duncan Slater – it has been an epic Marathon Des Sables, hasn’t it?

Tom: Yes, it’s been amazing. The support that the whole team has received, not just from Walking with the Wounded and serving members of the British Armed Forces, but from so many across the world. We’ve been incredibly lucky this year; the Walking with the Wounded team had raised a lot of money. Like you say, the likes of Duncan Slater for the first double amputee to complete the race – amazing.

Then also we had Oscar who’s 16 years old, he competed with his father. Everyone helps during the race. That was very encouraging throughout. But then also, everyone back home really got behind the team which then led to the successes that Walking with the Wounded had in the race.

Ian: Let’s go back because there’s got to be a starting point. Let’s start with you and your running and then the MDS prep. To prepare for Marathon Des Sables and be non-Moroccan and do well, it normally requires all sorts of specific types of training, whether that is being really anal about kit, working out what type of food you’re going to eat, heat adaptation, how you handle dehydration, and all those things. I’d like to talk to you about that. But first, when did you start running?

Tom: My sister was a good athlete at school. I got slightly jealous of her so I decided that signing up to the Athletics Club was a good idea. That was when I was 13. I raced on the track all throughout school – anything from 70, 100 meters to 5k on the track. I realized that I was a decent, good English runner so I just got pulled in to the cross-country teams. Since being in the army, I’ve had an incredibly busy career and running took a back seat.

However, during 2015, I was based at a posting in Kenya for 10-months. I was lucky and spent a week training at the high-altitude training centre which really got me focused again on my running. Getting back to the UK, I carried on as much as I could but with work commitments, it’s always been difficult to be able to plan out a couple of months in advance of which races I wanted to do.

I’ve always been keen on my fitness and played as much sport as I can. But my running has only been specific for the last six months. I was squeezing everything in as much as I could – my preparations have been fairly rushed. I still see myself as relatively untrained…

Ian: I’ve got a feeling that there’s a lot of runners around the world saying to themselves, “If Tom’s really untrained, what’s going to happen?”

Tom: I think I have to find my distance and to find my passion, for now ultra-trail, that’s where I’ll stick. Hopefully, specific training will then lead on to more great results.

Ian: Like I said, you were a complete unknown but there was a great deal of conversations at MDS about you being a 2;18 marathon runner, aiming for an England vest, wanting to run at the Olympics – what is the truth in that story though? What are the aspirations outside? What you’d like to achieve in ultra and trail? What is your marathon time? What are your objectives, maybe in terms of a GB or an Olympian vest?

Tom: I think for the time being, I’m really going to focus on ultras. Certainly, the next 18-months. It’s always been my ambition to race in the Olympics. My marathon is currently at 2:20, but that was a while ago. I’m hoping with the experience that I’m going to gain in the next 6, 12 and 18-months, that my running will really start to improve. For the moment, I’m doing it because I love the sport.

It’s more than running, It’s the whole community, the preparation. It’s being self-sufficient throughout the race and then also, mixing with the other competitors. It’s a very competitive sport but on the start line, you’re mixing with other people from all over the world – Rachid and Mohamed for example. It’s just that relationship that you can forge over a week-long period which really draws me into ultras, especially multi-day.

Having said that, my ultra-running experience is so limited and I’m sure a lot of the followers will be fairly surprised to read that the MDS was my first multi-day race, so it was completely uncharted territory for me. The long stage of MDS was the farthest I’d ever run by 12-kilometers, ity was all so new.

Ian: Wow.

Tom: It’s just such a huge learning project. I’m so new to that. I’ve got so much to learn and will just be learning as much and as much as I can in the sport.

Ian: Yes, okay. I’m getting a sense that maybe the multi-day type experience is where you will place an emphasis but obviously single-day ultras are also going to figure. Being in the army and the way that Marathon des Sables is organised, is the race just like another army training exercise – Is it just like another military campaign?

Tom: There are certain similarities, I think that’s why Marathon des Sables attracts a great deal of serving and ex-military personnel not only from the UK but also from all across the world. It’s self-sufficient element is classic military and replicates doing something hard – be it a long insertion march or similar, plus you must carry weight. Post the run, it’s about getting yourself back into your tent and then starting to look after yourself, looking after your body, doing all of that, the basic administrations, sorting out your feet, stretching, making sure you’re fully hydrated again, getting your nutrition on – classic army!

This is what really draws everyone closer together, you’re going through that together. You are living in a confined space in a tent with 7 other people and the camaraderie that’s built up over a very short period of time is very similar to the military, which I think is absolutely amazing.

Ian: The process of working out how you were going to spend the week in the desert in terms of your kit selection, your food choices, were they just extensions of what you’ve experienced as a soldier or did you specifically pool information and speak to people to find out what type of equipment to use? It can be a daunting task when you think about this whole self-sufficiency thing and the fact that you’ve got to carry everything that you need. The only thing that you’re being given is water and a shelter for the night and it’s all basic.

Join Tom Evans, Elisabet Barnes and Sondre Amdahl on our Multi-Day Training Camp in Lanzarote – information HERE.

Tom: Yes, I spent a bit of time speaking to lots of people. I was lucky enough to be around for the MDS Expo in London which was excellent. That was my springboard to start my research really – the kit, the foods, the heat training and the hydration strategy that I was going to implement during the race.

I spent a great deal of time testing different kit, my room at home now is full with different backpacks and different pairs of shorts and socks – it can be expensive!

Ian: [laughs]

Tom: It’s important to be specific, my needs are different to others in the race. For example, I completed the whole race quicker than say someone takes to do just the long stage. That is significant! The demands on ones feet, clothing, time on legs, nutrition and so on can’t be underestimated.

Ian: Absolutely.

Tom: It’s very different. It’s a very, very different experience. I started day one with six and a half kilo pack exactly. I had a few comforts, had a nice a nice warm jacket, a good sleeping bag but no roll mat, my food reserves were weighed out and light weight and I probably didn’t carry as many calories as I would have liked and no stove, all my food was cold. But having said that, because I ended up getting in  early during the days, I was able to warm my water up naturally in the sun. It can be a very daunting process, ask a 100-people they’d probably tell you 100 different answers.

It’s important to find out what works for you, what’s comfortable but also assess the race and your goals. Most will walk far more than they anticipate, I was lucky, I ran pretty much the whole race but it’s a very different story once you move out of the top 10%.

Ian: Yes. I’m impressed for a first-timer with the fact that you got your pack down to 6.5kg, that obviously must mean that you weren’t eating much more than two and a half thousand calories per day. You said that you’d been quite a big guy over 80 kgs, I don’t know what you’re racing weight is now, you’ve lost weight so need less calories. Andy Symonds from the UK, he was looking for top-10 and he achieved that but he did say to me that as the week went on, he was just permanently hungry and he wasn’t getting enough calories to function as he wanted.

He could run but he didn’t have the energy to run the pace that he wanted to run. How did you manage that and how did you sustain the pace? Is there anything that you had done pre-race that taught your body to use fat as a fuel?

Tom: I ended up doing a lot of my training early in the mornings before breakfast because I was incredibly busy at work. If I could get 1-2 hours in the morning, it meant that I had more time during the day. I’d have a good meal the previous evening but then 10 hours later, eight hours later I’d be running on an empty stomach, it just got my body used using my fat stores and supply the energy I needed.

During the race you’ve got to make sure you have the right nutrients, the right amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats in your diet. I’ve got a good friend back home who owns a small supplement company, OG Supplements, who spent a lot of times of going through my diet plan, just looking at the ingredients – I had the right amount of nutrients in my diet.

On the shorter days I would eat 2,300 calories and then on the marathon days, 2,700, and on the long day, 3,100. Lets be clear, you are going to be in a calorie deficit throughout the week but I think it’s being able to space those meal plans out that works. A sizable breakfast in the morning and then throughout the day, every time I got to the checkpoint, I was taking calories on just to try and maintain a level of energy within my body. You need some good calories quickly when you finish, you need to start the repair process asap.

You must make sure that you look after yourself as soon as possible – going back to being serving officer in the British Army, certainly with the Welsh Guard, that is a key lesson that I learned going through my training, it has become second nature.

Ian: I think certainly being in the Army is a huge advantage. It’s that admin, it’s that protocol, it’s that discipline. I often think of a story that a soldier told me of why you make your bed in the morning and you can probably elaborate on this far better than I can but it’s that process of starting the day and having that discipline.

Tom: Yes it is! You can look at it in the short term with the same analogy as making the bed in the morning: Start the day as you mean to go on, exactly the same; start of the week, start of the month. You’ve got to be able to take on that attitude in everything you do. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it properly!”

A lot of people say, “Oh, you were very lucky that you get the chances to do these things.” Funny how people who work hard become lucky! Without hard work, none of this is possible. You must delve into the depth of everything and you’ve got to try and cover all bases, looking into to every possible eventuality. I’m a huge believer of visualization and setting goals – short-term, midterm, and long-term.

That brings it much closer to home and making my dreams a reality rather than something that, “Oh, this might be quite nice to do.” It’s the mentality that I use when I go into anything – work, home, training or racing.

Ian: You mentioned about training in the morning and training fasted and the fact that you have a busy working life. What would a typical training week for you look like in the build-up to Marathon Des Sables?

Tom: I have been lucky enough to be training with a group of guys who are training for London Marathon, all guys planning on running a sub 2:20. The majority of my mileage was high-quality miles. I was of the mind-set that I needed to run quality miles. However, when you’re training for ultras, you are doing longer distances, one needs to be specific. If I tried and maintain the same tempo and the same effort in longer sessions I would crumble – all about balance.

I would average 90-miles per week and then in the month before Marathon des Sables, I added two weeks at 120 miles, which was by far the longest that I’d run. My runs would be a real mixture of longer runs, typically back-to-back. I would do a tempo long run on a Saturday and then a slow long run on the Sunday. During the week I’d be on the track once. I woukd join sessions: 4x 8-minutes 10k pace for example, really focusing on speed work and the power. I really think it helped my form for Marathon des Sables.

A lot of the race is about speed and about strength – if racing at the front. If you imagine going over the dunes, the quicker that you’re able to get off the dune, the less chance there is for gravity to work against you and the sand to hold you back. I needed to perform at a high level, day-in and day-out. I did a lot of work with my heart rate monitor and I’ve spent time in the lab looking at my VO2 and my lactate threshold.

My training was based on a marathon training program. I have a coach at Lewes Athletics Club and we mixed everything together to try to work it around my schedule at work – it worked well!

In the second part of the interview, we bring you Tom’s thoughts about the race and how his 2017 Marathon des Sables unfolded.

Transgrancanaria 2017 Race Summary and Images

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The island of Gran Canaria once again hosted the Transgrancanaria series of races. Over the years, the races have grown not only in stature and entries but also in quantity. In total, there are now seven races and this year the addition of the TRANS 360 (265km) really has elevated the race portfolio so that TRANSGRANCANARIA now contrasts and compares directly to the UTMB series of races.

Starting with a FAMILY race (17km) you then have PROMO (17km), STARTER (30km), MARATHON (42km), ADVANCED (82km), the TRANS 360 and then the main event of the weekend, TRANSGRANCANARIA at 125km and 8000m of vertical gain.

Over the year’s, TRANSGRANCANARIA has had the world best come to this Canary island and do battle. Ryan Sandes, Sebsatien Chaigneau, Nuria Picas and Caroline Chaverot are amongst the winners and the 2017 edition, like previous years, had a high quality field.

Notably, the 2017 edition is also earlier in the year, in the past, the race has been in March. This is significant, the 125km race is tough at anytime of the year but coming so early means that the end of one season and the beginning of the next becomes increasingly cloudy. If you want to do well here, it’s fair to say that the previous year’s season needs to end in September or October to allow for recovery and then building training once again to be ready in February.

Caroline Chaverot and Didrick Hermansen were 2016 returning champions and without doubt they were pre-race favourites. Didrick most definitely would have a fight on his hands with the final result going anyway. By contrast, Caroline after an incredible 2016 season was almost guaranteed a victory. But this is ultra-running and things don’t always go the way you expect.

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Click on an image to view the gallery

From the off, Pau Capell and Azara Garcia dictated the race from the front and by the time they reached Artenara (approx 30km), the duo had a convincing lead in their respective races. Many had predicted pre-race that 2017 was Pau’s year, however, Azara was stepping up to the 125km distance – she normally races hilly, technical mountain races of marathon distance, so, stepping up to 125km and 8000m of vert was going to be a challenge.

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Click on an image to view the gallery

 

The Spanish duo most certainly had some highs and lows on an incredible journey to the line but they didn’t falter. Pau looked to be a man on a mission throughout the race and although he went through a bad patch in the last 20km, he rallied and then continued to pull away to take one of the biggest victories of his life.

Azara battled and battled and from Roque Nublio looked tired and maybe a little bit broken. Somehow she managed to find the mental strength to beat and will her body to the line. She finished with a convincing lead over 2nd lady Andrea Huser, but Azara was an empty shell on the line. She was broken and the emotion of the biggest win of her career seemed all too much as she sat lost in her exhaustion. Eventually she was stretchered away to recover.

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Click on an image to view the gallery

Behind two amazing performances were the highs and lows of the ultra world. In the ladies’ race we saw Caroline Chaverot drop from the race at Artenara lacking energy with tired legs. We saw Andrea Huser produce an ever-consistent and well placed performance to place 2nd and gain another high-ranking podium place and Melanie Rousset from France rallied to finish 3rd ahead of Kirstin Berglund. Full ladies’ results HERE.

The men’s race was a cracker, however, everyone was running in the wake of Pau Capell who produced a dominating world-class performance. Vlaidas Zlabys from Lithuania was the revelationn of the race and a name to note for the future. Right from the beginning he was in the mix and he produced a strong, consistent and well paced performance to finish 2nd 14:35 minutes behind Pau. In the final 20km he had closed that gap down to 10-minutes but Pau surged. Didrick Hermansen ran much of the race off the podium but he knows his strength. In the last 3rd of the race he closed hard and moved up through the race to finally finish on the podium in 3rd – a great result!

Behind the top-3 is a story of trials and tribulations, pre-race favourites of Andy Symonds, Diego Pazos and Timothy Olson all finished in the top-10 but it was stories of niggles, sickness, fatigue and fighting a cold and challenging night. Full men’s results HERE.

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Click on an image to view the gallery

The 2017 edition of the race will be remembered for a very cold and windy night that challenged the runners. Even the arrival of daylight did not warm the ambient temperature in the mountains. It was only as the runners descended to the sea in the final 20-30km’s did temperatures rise and of course, this brings it’s own problems. From 4-degrees to 25-degrees is a tough ask. The challenge was clearly seen on each runners face.

Pau Capell and Azara Garcia are the names of 2017, I wonder, who will be the names of 2018?

Men Results

  1. Pau Capell 13:21:03 (Didrick ran 13:41 in 2016)
  2. Vlaidas Zlabys 13:35:38
  3. Didrick Hermansen 13:50:06
  4. Jordi Baus 13:53:53
  5. Maxime Cazajous 13:53:54

Ladies Results

  1. Azara Garcia 16:25:20 (Caroline ran 15:23 in 2016)
  2. Andrea Huser 17:15:45
  3. Melanie Rousset 17:30:40
  4. Kistin Berglund 18:00:04
  5. Ildo Wermescher 18:17:43

Images will be uploaded to iancorless.photoshelter.com

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Statement from Michel Poletti UTMB® re: EPO Positive Test

It is never nice to have to report and document on doping, particularly in a sport I love. However, in the past 24-hours many questions have been raised re a positive test for EPO at the worlds largest trail running event, the UTMB®

I must thank Robbie Biritton for bringing the positive test of Gonzalo Calisto to the limelight. I recommend that you read my post from earlier today HERE.

This positive test raised many questions. Most importantly, how was it possible that the IAAF could have this information available to the public and the UTMB® or UTWT not notify the world media and runners of this positive decision?

I was proactive and I emailed UTWT and UTMB® and within a relatively short period of time, the UTMB® released a ‘press release’ which acknowledged all our claims. You can read that HERE.

Problem is, myself and many of the ultra running community still have many questions. How was it possible that Robbie, myself and other journalists were the ‘first’ to release this information?

And I quote:

Dear UTMB®
Many thanks for this and thank you for responding so quickly.
It does pose some serious questions though and I would like clarification why it has taken myself (and a few others) to bring this to everyones attention.
How long have the UTMB known about this positive test?
Kind regards,
Ian

This evening I have received a reply from Michel Poletti.  He provides the following answers to my question?

Dear Ian,

We have learned this news this morning at 7 AM (Paris time) by an email from Anne who has been asked by other journalists.

Indeed, the anti-doping procedure is so discreet that :
– the organizer has no information about the doping controls operated on his race
– when a national or international federation make a decision, this decision is published on the web site of the federation, with no other announcement
Thus, if an organizer want to know something about the anti-doping controls which were made on his race, he should need to look every day on the web site of the federations…or to wait to be warned by someone else…

Do not hesitate to ask for any other question

Best regards

I have to say that I welcome this response. However, I struggle with it…. I responded:

I appreciate your email and I thank you for the clarification.
I am somewhat bemused and perplexed by this situation? 
I became aware of this some 12 hours before the UTMB organisation? I find this hard to believe… this has been ‘public’ knowledge on the IAAF website since June 24th. Are you telling me, that it was myself that informed UTMB of a positive test?
The IAAF have found Gonzalo Calisto ‘positive’ of EPO at ‘in competition testing’ after placing 5th at ‘the’ most prestigious trail running event in the world and they did not inform the race, you or Catherine?
Could I ask the following please?
1. Why are you not informed of a positive test?
2. Which authority took the test and on who’s authority?
3. Who does Gonzalo Calisto approach to review the test?
4. Under who’s authority is Gonzalo Calisto suspended from racing?
These are fundamental points and please rest assured, I want to ensure that Gonzalo Calisto is not the subject of a witch hunt.
*****
I will inform you of a reply when I receive it.

Buud and Hayvice triumph at the 2016 Tararwera Ultramarathon

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Widely tipped to take out the internationally esteemed Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km event, Sweden’s Jonas Buud didn’t have it all his own way, battling it out over two thirds of the distance with Australia’s David Byrne.

Forty-one year old Buud, 100km world champion, eventually broke the bungy cord between the two just before the 60km mark and charged home to take the 2016 title at the finish line in Kawerau in a time of 08:00:53. Byrne, 35 years, finished second in 08:22:39.

Ryan Sandes from South Africa completed the podium in a time of 08:30:40. Japan’s Yoshikazu Hara finished fourth in 08:40:17, with New Zealand’s Vajin Armstrong the first Kiwi home in a time of 08:46:12.

Meanwhile, Wellington’s Fiona Hayvice claimed first place in the women’s 100km event, after race favourite Ruby Muir pulled out at the 76km mark due to stomach issues. Hayvice also won the Tarawera 50km Marathon in November last year.

Muir, from Hawke’s Bay, had led the field from the outset until her withdrawal from the race.

Hayvice won the event in a time of 10:34:26. Australia’s Melissa Robertson came second in 10:56:20, with New Zealander Fiona Eagles taking third in 11.24.57.

The men’s first and second spent much of the race together, with just seconds between them at several of the key aid stations, including Lake Okataina (39.4km), Humphries Bay (49.2km) and the Tarawera Outlet (57km).

Buud finally put a gap on Byrne and never looked back.

“I felt very strong for the first 60km,” he says. “The plan was to keep a good pace in the first 60km. The next dirt road stretch really suited me so I was able to speed up and continue with that pace. The last seven to ten kilometres was pretty heavy though!”

Buud says the morning’s rain was a help in the first half of the race, but the humid conditions in the second half made for it being “a bit warm”.

Byrne says he is thrilled to have run so well in his first ever 100km event, but he was completely demoralised by Buud who “looked like he was just jogging, and then took off”.

“Then I went into consolidation mode to get to the finish. It’s a great event and I’m really happy to run so well. I’ve only ever run 60km, this was my first 100km race but I had to do it in New Zealand – it’s the best country on the planet!”

Third place Sandes says he’s happy to take the last spot on the podium.

“I’m super stoked, it’s an awesome event. I was pretty conservative in the middle stretches, but the last bit on the road was hard and I was worried that third and fourth were going to run me down. I decided to make a break in the technical section, as I knew Vajin [Armstrong] would run away from me on the flat.”

Hayvice says she couldn’t be happier to take the win.

“I’m feeling awesome, what a great day. The Tarawera Ultra is dear to my heart because its the first ultra I ever ran and it usually lays the foundation for me for the year. I have a big schedule lined up for the year but now my foundation is laid and I’m stoked.”

Hayvice says she found the first part of the race “actually quite lonely” due to the new course and its big climbs which threw the field open.

“I ran a lot of it on my own which I haven’t done in previous years. Once you know you’re in the final stages, you just tick the kilometres off. My goal was just to better my time, but the course and conditions had an impact on that time – but the win has meant I changed the goal!”

New Zealand’s Vajin Armstrong finished fifth, claiming a new record for finishing in the top five placegetters for the sixth year in a row at the Tarawera Ultramarathon. Armstrong says he hadn’t intended running the event this year, after racing the Tarawera Ultra for the last five years, but once he saw the elite world champion field that was entered, he couldn’t resist.

“I wanted to run against the best runners in the world and I also felt like I had a bit more in my legs last year. The whole goal this year was to be a bit more aggressive and get myself into a position to compete with these top runners. This was by far my best performance here, even though the time was a bit slower with the slightly different course. Three or four years ago I would have won it today, but [race organiser] Paul keeps bringing better runners. The pedigree of this race is such that it now has world champion runners and I think it’s important for New Zealand runners to represent and show what we can do on the world stage.”

Due to course changes in for this year’s event, the actual course was 102.7km.

Race results: 

Tarawera Ultramarathon 100km Results:

Men:

  1. Jonas Buud (Sweden) 08:00:53
  2. David Byrne (Australia) 08:22:39
  3. Ryan Sandes (South Africa) 08:30:40
  4. Yoshikazu Hara (Japan) 08:40:17
  5. Vajin Armstrong (Christchurch, New Zealand) 08:46:12

Women:

  1. Fiona Hayvice (Wellington) 10:34:26
  2. Melissa Robertson (NSW, Australia) 10:56:20
  3. Fiona Eagles (Auckland) 11.24.57

Tarawera Ultramarathon 85km Results:

Men:

  1. Richard Coghlan (Japan) 08:40:55
  2. Valentin Benard (France) 08:50:58
  3. Lance Brew (Hamilton, NZ) 09:11:52
  4. Valentino Luna Hernand (Wellington, NZ) 9:34:12
  5. Sidney Willis (Townsville, Australia) 10:15:18

Women’s results unavailable at time of distribution.